William Blake’s poems called “The Tyger” and “The Lamb” belong to the collection of the poet’s works called “The Songs of Innocence and Experience.” This collection is divided into two parts. The first part, called “The Songs of Innocence” was published in 1789, this part contains various poems, one of which is “The Lamb.” “The Tyger” appeared a little later, in 1794, as a part of a collection called “The Songs of Experience” (William Blake’s “The Tyger,” par. 1).
Both of the poems are very popular. “The Tyger” is often read by the younger students in elementary schools. It is appreciated for the excellent rhymes and rhythm that is easy to remember and reproduce. These two poems contain references to the other works of William Blake and each other. It is a known fact that the poet was quite fond of lambs and often referred to their appearance and behaviour in his metaphors, comparisons, and similes.
Besides the poems “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” are often paired with each other because they carry similar messages and explore the same questions and theories, these two poems are meant to complement each other, they present the reader with rhetorical wonderings of the poet and suggest two interesting points of view, so only by reading both of the poems the viewer gets to perceive the actual message left by the author.
“The Lamb” is quite a short poem with very clear contents. It contains multiple repetitions as if they are the course between the stanzas; it is built like a song of a child. This is why it was included in William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence.” The very first line of the poem presents the reader with the main theme of the poem – the question a child addresses to a lamb: “Little lamb who made thee?” (1).
The child admires the gentle nature of the lamb, its “softest clothing” (6) and “tender voice” (7) and wonders what kind of power could have created such amazing, sweet and beautiful creature. In the second part of the poem, the child answers the question: “He is called by thy name/ for he calls himself a lamb” (13-14). This makes the reader realise that the author speaks about Jesus, an incarnation of the Creator, who is often symbolised by a lamb and is known for his kindness and gentleness.
The poet notes that “he is meek & he is mild/ he became a little child” (15-16), reminding the reader that Jesus often is portrayed as a baby. At the end of the poem, the child says blessings to the lamb. This poem truly is the song of innocence because one innocent creature addresses another one in it. We can see that the child believes in God with their whole heart, treats the lamb lovingly, and admires what is thought to be created by God because it is gentle, sweet, and beautiful.
The poem is written in a very sincere and naïve manner, but the fact that the author included it into the “Songs of Innocence” cycle makes us realise that Blake was not as much expressing his own beliefs as he was reflecting the thoughts and perceptions of a pure child.
“The Tyger” is a longer poem, and it is filled with thoughtful and philosophical argument. This time the author addresses a tiger asking it “what immortal hand or eye/ Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” (3-4). Blake describes the power and fierce nature of the tiger. He compares the tiger’s appearance to the fire because of the colour of its fur. Blake also mentions that the tiger has inner fire asking “in what distant deeps or skies/ burnt the fire of thine eyes?” (5-6).
The poet clearly states that such strong and dangerous predator was created by some power, he also wonders if the Creator of the tiger liked what he made: “Did he smile his work to see?” (19), and if he intended to create this kind of beast. Moreover, in the very next line, the author asks another question, he is curious if tigers were made by the same power that created lambs: “did he who made the Lamb make thee?” (20). This is when “The Lamb” and “The Tyger” start to relate to each other. “The Tyger” is a part of “Songs of Experience,” and it represents a wiser and deeper view of the world around us.
The believer does not take their faith blindly, but explores it, asks questions, wonders about the connections that run through its nature, thinks about the origins of life and death, good and evil. This is an approach of an experienced person, who has seen life in its multiple forms and reflections, who has been through joy and fear, and who grew to understand the complicated sides of faith when it becomes very hard to accept the religious teachings blindly and without a doubt.
Comparing these two poems it is easy to see that “The Lamb” has a very positive and innocent spirit, it is written cheerfully and hopefully, reflecting the perception of a happy child that sees the bright and loving part of the world. At the same time, “The Tyger” is designed to demonstrate a more mature and experienced perspective of life and its origins. The narration of both poems starts with the same question and explores natural for human beings curious about the creation of life, the presence of intelligent design behind it.
Creationist philosophy is the basis of “The Lamb” and “The Tyger.” The two poems explore two aspects of life – good and evil. The lamb is a symbol of innocence and kindness, and the tiger represents death, fire, and danger. William Blake portrays the two sides of life and hints that both of them were created by the same power, and have the same origin, which means that they are two halves of one that was designed to maintain the vital balance of life.
According to the message of William Blake, the world is a contradictory place, but it was meant to be this way because shadow exists where there is light, just like death exists only where there is life. The two poems by Blake are paired with each other for a reason; they depict an eternal antagonism of the opposites, which is the main source of balance in the universe. If the reader looks at only one of the two works, they will end up getting a biased idea, an incomplete message. The “Lamb” and “The Tyger” should be read and a sequence, a complex idea that occurs to us gradually as we mature, lose our innocence, and gain life experience.
Blake, William. The Lamb. 2014. Web.
—. The Tyger. n. d. Web.
William Blake’s “The Tyger”. BritishLibrary. n. d. Web.